Negotiating Matrimony: Marriage, Divorce, and Property Allocation Practices in Istanbul, 1755-1840

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Negotiating Matrimony: Marriage, Divorce, and Property Allocation Practices in Istanbul, 1755-1840

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Title: Negotiating Matrimony: Marriage, Divorce, and Property Allocation Practices in Istanbul, 1755-1840
Author: Kayhan Elbirlik, Leyla
Citation: Kayhan Elbirlik, Leyla. 2013. Negotiating Matrimony: Marriage, Divorce, and Property Allocation Practices in Istanbul, 1755-1840. Doctoral dissertation, Harvard University.
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Abstract: This dissertation studies the construction of the marital bond and its dissolution with respect to the normative stipulations of the shari'a, social and moral constructions, and the cultural formations during late-eighteenth and early-nineteenth-century Istanbul. Through the examination of court cases, estate inventories, and contemporary chronicles, I demonstrate the strategies and practices that perpetrated possible patterns in the matrimonial union. Although Islamic law allowed for and encouraged the spouses to reconcile marriage-related negotiations outside of court, the amount of registered marital disputes indicates the central role of the court for spouses in establishing conciliatory grounds. This study explores in particular the consensual and purposeful use of the shari'a courts by women. The examination of the sicils from three different courts in intra muros Istanbul has shown that women were adamant about formalizing the consequence of marriage, divorce and property related discordances hoping to secure their future interests. The dissertation essentially introduces the largely overlooked issue of the specialization of courts in this period and presents specifically the Dāvud Pasha court’s concentration on marriage and family-related disputes. By focusing on local practices and particularities through a case-by-case methodology, the study delivers a portrayal of Ottoman urban marriage structure within the context of the socio-legal and economic dynamics of the period. Given that the formal registry of marriage contracts and divorce settlements was not legally enforced until the early twentieth century, the extensive practice of registration in court could be interpreted as the preliminary steps to the formalization and codification of the marital union. I offer a likely reading of women’s experiences with respect to marriage and property ownership suggesting that the predominant marriage pattern observed in the segment of the population that used the court was companionate. By analyzing quantitative data and archival material, I demonstrate women’s visibility in the public sphere through their significantly increased use of courts, proactive utilization of social networks, and strategic activities vis-a-vis marriage and divorce to depict a portrayal of the late eighteenth-century Istanbul family.
Terms of Use: This article is made available under the terms and conditions applicable to Other Posted Material, as set forth at http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:dash.current.terms-of-use#LAA
Citable link to this page: http://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:11125998
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